Tuesday Reads: A Mashup of Recent Stories I Liked

morning paper cat dog

Good Morning!!

Over the weekend, I came across this amazing story in The Daily Beast, and I just had to share it: An Auschwitz Survivor Searches for His Twin on Facebook. It’s the story of Menachem Bodner who was just four years old when the Nazi prison camp was liberated. He is now 72 and is now trying to find his twin brother whom he last saw when they were being used as experimental subjects by the infamous Josef Mengele.

It’s most likely that Menachem Bodner last saw his identical twin in 1945, in Dr. Josef Mengele’s gruesome Auschwitz laboratory. He was 4 then and doesn’t remember his time in the notorious death camp. But in the 68 years that have followed, Bodner says he’s “always” been certain he was one of a pair. He just didn’t have any proof until this past year. Now, he’s searching for Jeno, a man who probably looks just like him, and who has a distinctive “A-7734” tattoo on his forearm. And 1 million Facebook users are helping him look.

Mengele, known among prisoners as “the Angel of Death,” was deeply fascinated with twins and used them for research experiments in his macabre Auschwitz lab. Thankfully, Bodner, now 72, has no recollection of the cruelty he most certainly endured while undergoing experiments, though he can remember a sense of paralyzing fear. Unfortunately he also has few impressions of his family’s prewar life in a small town east of Munkacs, Hungary, which is now in the Ukraine. But despite the lack of memories from a war-marred childhood, Bodner says that throughout his life he’s felt a deep connection with his twin—and is positive he’s still alive and out there. But where?

Until last May, Bodner didn’t even know that his own name was once Elias Gottesmann. Now he knows that. And he knows for certain that he has a twin—thanks to the Nazis’ dogged, pathological documentation of their crimes. Ayana KimRon, a professional genealogist in Israel, found the evidence, clearly written in a record put together by the organization Candles, of twins who were “identified as having been liberated at Auschwitz or from a subcamp”:

A-7733, Gottesmann, Elias, 4
A-7734, Gottesmann, Jeno, 4

Incredible! As a result of his search, Bodner has already found family members that he never knew were looking for him, but his dream is to find his brother. What a story it would be if they could be reunited!

I don’t know if you have been following the latest episode in the ongoing battle between Joe Scarborough and Paul Krugman. Scarborough somehow got together with Jeffrey Sachs of The Earth Institute at Columbia University to publish an op-ed in the Washington Post last Friday: Deficits Do Matter. In the op-ed, they attacked Paul Krugman by setting up a series of straw men and then knocking them down–mainly the false claim that Krugman thinks deficits are never a problem for governments. Here’s the introductory paragraph:

Dick Cheney and Paul Krugman have declared from opposite sides of the ideological divide that deficits don’t matter, but they simply have it wrong. Reasonable liberals and conservatives can disagree on what role the federal government should play yet still believe that government should resume paying its way.

It has become part of Keynesian lore in recent years that public debt is essentially free, that we needn’t worry about its buildup and that we should devote all of our attention to short-term concerns since, as John Maynard Keynes wrote, “in the long run, we are all dead.” But that crude interpretation of Keynesian economics is deeply misguided; Keynes himself disagreed with it.

However, if you read Krugman piece that Sachs and Scarborough link to, you’ll see that it doesn’t say what they pretend it does. It says that deficits don’t matter in the short term, but it’s not true that they never matter. Krugman in the quoted column from March 2011:

Right now, deficits don’t matter — a point borne out by all the evidence. But there’s a school of thought — the modern monetary theory people — who say that deficits never matter, as long as you have your own currency.

I wish I could agree with that view — and it’s not a fight I especially want, since the clear and present policy danger is from the deficit peacocks of the right. But for the record, it’s just not right.

The key thing to remember is that current conditions — lots of excess capacity in the economy, and a liquidity trap in which short-term government debt carries a roughly zero interest rate — won’t always prevail. As long as those conditions DO prevail, it doesn’t matter how much the Fed increases the monetary base, and it therefore doesn’t matter how much of the deficit is monetized. But this too shall pass, and when it does, things will be very different.

I guess Sachs and Scarborough assumed their WaPo readers wouldn’t bother to click on the link. Anyway, Mark Thoma wrote an epic takedown of the Sachs-Scarborough op-ed at his Economist’s View blog: Crude Sachsism.

Frankly, I doubt that Scarborough had anything to do with writing the op-ed, and I think it would be really hilarious if someone would ask him to explain it on his show. Why is Scarborough so obsessed with proving Krugman wrong? As for Jeffrey Sachs, he is a follower of Milton Friedman and The Chicago School of Economics who is famous for his failedMillennium Villages” project and his so-called “shock therapy” in Latin America, Russia, and Eastern Europe. Judge for yourself whether you want to buy into his neoliberal, modified supply-side arguments.

I know I’m kind of a weirdo, but I had a blast reading all this stuff over the weekend, including this post by Ryan Coooper (filling in for Ed Kilgore at The Washington Monthly) questioning why Sachs doesn’t even know what was in the stimulus.

Jeff Sachs has long been known as the celebrity-hobnobbing economist with the seriously flawed “shock therapy” plan for economic development. Lately he’s taken a weird turn in the public debate, coauthoring an op-ed piece with Joe Scarborough of all people, attacking Paul Krugman.

Today he’s back with one of the most bizarre pieces of economic analysis I’ve seen, arguing among other things that 1) the stimulus was too focused on short-term stuff like tax cuts which 2) aren’t effective stimulus anyway (huh?) and 3) should have had much more long-term investment.

Wrong again! Read all about it at the link.

The back and forth quieted down yesterday, but today Cooper–who is filling in for Ed Kilgore at The Washington Monthly–brought it up again with this post: How Does Jeffrey Sachs Explain The Great Recession?

I need to read it carefully and follow the links and responses to today–my idea of fun! I guess it’s partly the psychologist in me–I’m fascinated by these human interactions and the verbal battles over important issues of the day.

Continuing the economics theme, Alex Pareene has a great piece at Salon on The competitive advantage of deficit hacks. It’s all about how the media helps the false Village memes and tries to marginalize people like Paul Krugman who actually know something about economics. The gist:

I think a lot about contemporary political debates makes a great deal more sense when you realize that hacks, especially hacks shilling for awful ideas, have a competitive advantage over non-hacks: They do not care if they constantly repeat themselves, even if what they are constantly repeating is wrong.

For a writer or pundit who actually feels some sort of responsibility to inform and/or entertain his or her readers, writing the same damn thing over and over again seems wrong (it is also boring). But bad ideas are constantly being repeated by people who feel absolutely no shame about saying the same things over and over and over again. Indeed, “shamelessness” is in general a defining characteristic of hacks. Also, frequently, people are being paid to repeat the same awful ideas over and over again, and unfortunately usually there’s more money to be made repeating bad ideas than good ones. (Hence: Lanny Davis.)

Arguably, American conservatives are better at sticking to their pet causes in general, as liberals move from fight to fight. Look at how contraception “suddenly” became a matter of national public debate last year, years after liberals thought it a well-settled question. Or look at how long the movement spent trying to roll back the majority of the New Deal, a project that continues to this day!

And on the question of the deficit and the “grand bargain,” Pete Peterson and a few others have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and decades of their lives making the exact same argument, and setting up organizations that pay others to make the exact same argument, until a majority of Beltway centrists internalized the argument and began making it themselves, over and over again. When it comes to centrist pundits, the unsophisticated brainwashing technique that has utterly failed to move the public at large over the last 25 years has worked perfectly. (Because centrist pundits are simple, credulous people, by and large, and also because they will not rely on “entitlements” to survive, when they retire from their very well-compensated jobs.)

Plus— another must read from Alex Pareene: The undead, unnecessary, unhelpful Grand Bargain.

Washington has Grand Bargain fever, again. Thanks to the sequestration, Republican government-shrinking mania and Barack Obama’s apparently sincere desire to get some sort of huge long-term debt deal done, the Grand Bargain is looking more possible than at any point since the heady days of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.

For some reason, the options for dealing with sequestration — a self-inflicted made-up austerity crisis — are being purposefully and pointlessly limited to a) spending cuts, either those in sequestration or different ones, or b) spending cuts and tax increases. “Let’s just not do this, everyone” is rarely presented as a viable option. Instead, the single best end result, according to lots of pundits, Democrats and even Republicans, is tthe Mythical Grand Bargain.

This is awful news, for most people. A “grand bargain” is not going to be good. But after Barack Obama had fancy dinners with some Republicans last week, everyone is again hopeful. The president is hopeful. John Boehner is hopeful. David Gergen is probably hopeful. They can all taste the Bargain. Ooh, it’ll be so great when we get that Bargain!

Read it, and you’ll laugh and cry at the same time!

Now a few more reads that tickled my fancy–in link dump fashion:

LA Times: Harvard faculty outraged after administration spies on emails

WBZ Boston: Harvard University Issues Explanation Of Resident Deans Email Search

The Guardian: World’s top 100 universities 2013: their reputations ranked by Times Higher Education

The Daily Mail: Meet the former Harvard University admin assistant who built up a multimillion-dollar empire… selling sex toys

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Steubenville rape trial will center on issue of consent

New York Daily News: Mike Bloomberg’s supersized ego does in planned soda ban

Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading list today? Please share your links in the comments.

Have a fabulous Tuesday!!

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35 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: A Mashup of Recent Stories I Liked”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Greg Sargent: Bernie Sanders may filibuster any “grand bargain” that cuts Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.

    In an interview with me today, Senator Bernie Sanders said that progressive Democratic Senators should be prepared to band together to block any “grand bargain” that includes cuts to entitlement benefits — and even hinted that he and others might filibuster such a deal, if necessary.

    As talk increases of White House outreach to Republicans in search of a big deal to replace the sequester, a question has presented itself. Is there any other realistic endgame in this battle, aside from either continued sequestration or a deal to avert it, in which Republicans agree to new revenues in exchange for entitlement cuts, including Chained CPI for Social Security and Medicare means testing? Republicans will never agree to repeal the sequester. So realistically, isn’t the choice between a deal or sequestration limbo, with future budgets configured around lower spending levels, damaging the economy?

    Sanders insists to me that this framing — which I had adopted — is the wrong way to look at this fight. Instead, he says Dems must build a coalition to leverage public opinion to force Republicans to accept a resolution that combines judicious spending cuts with new revenues from the rich and corporations — while preserving entitlement benefits.

    “It’s a question of making Republicans an offer they can’t refuse,” Sanders tells me. “Their position is no more revenues. You and I know that is not the position of the American people. One in four corporations doesn’t pay any taxes. What Democrats and progressives should say is, `Sorry, we’re not going to balance the budget on the backs of the vulnerable.’” Sanders described the idea of cutting education, Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits as an “obscenity.”

    • RalphB says:

      I hope a lot of Democratic senators, including Harry Reid, join Sanders. Blocking a “bargain” seems the right thing to do, considering what might be in it.

    • RalphB says:

      Thanks BB. Those Alex Pareene pieces were great, (hence Lanny Davis) :-)

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Love that Bernie Sanders! To bad we can’t clone him. If Sanders can rally enough people to keep the “grand bargain” motion from getting 60 “yes” cloture votes, which is the threshold required to force a simple majority vote on the bill, then he has a fighting chance. Otherwise he’ll have to do the traditional filibuster and stand on the Senate floor and speak, until he can’t speak anymore. We all know where that ends. In the end whatever passes in the Senate has to pass the House, and I can’t even imagine what that bill would look like.

      My concern now goes to what might be in the grand bargain. What can the Dems and GOP agree on? At this point it appears that the only thing Obama is willing to negotiate is chained-cpi and means testing for SS & Medicare, I can’t imagine a grand bargain that Dems will support that doesn’t include tax reform aimed at corporations and the rich. Both of those are a non-starter for the GOP/TP. The Ryan Budget is a joke and a clusterfuck of destruction aimed at the middle class and poor, so it’s not even a consideration as a starting point. It makes me wonder what, other than getting back into the spotlight, motivates Paul Ryan to continue with his Ayn Rand proselytizing. Doesn’t that dumbclucker realize he and his Ayn Rand bullshit LOST?

      This is all too much damned drama for we, THE PEONS. It’s confusing, frustrating and disheartening and unless you can dedicate 24/7 to keeping up with all of the bullshit you can’t grasp what’s happening. I’m sure KEEPING US CONFUSED is what the POLS are banking on. Not to mention that we, THE PEONS, have little influence over what happens anyway.

      It all leaves me exhausted. Whewwwwwww!

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Has anyone heard or read when Boehner is going to schedule the Ryan Budget plan for a vote in the House?

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Here’s a link to Obama’s 2013 Budget Proposal. I’ve begun reading it because I won’t be able to speak about it with any sense of proportion if I don’t…. But, it is Boringgggggggg!!!

        http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget

        FYI….In the Section about Social Security funding, it clearly states that there is full solvency in SS until 2036. So, why is Paul Ryan doing all the fucking hand wringing? Cause he can’t privatize SS if he can’t convince the American people that privitization is the only way to save it. I can’t believe that POTUS and the White House can’t do a better job of messaging regarding SS than they are.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks, Mouse. I’ll try to slog through it too.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    Will justice prevail in the Steubenville case? Only time will tell.

    But it is apparent that the adults in this matter have hugely failed. This girl was dragged from one house to another throughout the night and there doesn’t seem to be any adults around to put a stop to the drinking and sexual activities taking place in their homes.

    A 16 yr old girl was out all night. Where were her parents? And those boys who were not present but openly discussed the evening’s events lack even the smallest hint of outrage.

    Under the law a 16 yr old cannot “give consent” but this episode shows a group of “teens gone wild” under any circumstances.

    The parents share equally in this tragedy when they do not provide the supervision required but rather look to find excuses for the behavior of their offspring regardless of the gender.

  3. Fannie says:

    I would be guessing, but looking for Jeno Gottlesmann, the twin, might very well be one a different spelling than his brother……………..Goedlemann, Joglemann, Goodelman, and not sure where the name Jeno comes from…..likely his Hungarian people, but it is not a common name, and I’d be searching for anyone coming to America with that name, Jeno/Geno, could be that someone else mispelled his name and he continued using the misspelling.

    That would be a super find to put the twins together.

    • Beata says:

      If Jeno was adopted after the war ( and I assume he was ), his name could be anything and he could be living almost anywhere in the world. The best chance of finding him would be a resemblance to his twin as well as the number on his arm.

      What a fascinating story. Thank you for the link to it, BB.

    • Fannie says:

      You ladies are always the best when it comes to links, and sources of information…………excellent information at the Halocaust Museum, they really expressed themselves, especially when I read about “healing/forgiveness”.

      And that little boy who got up close with Google Earth……..and connected his childhood and parents, that was a super fine.

      Thanks.

      • Fannie says:

        I would have never known “Eugene”…………wonder how his brother found out about being a twin last year…………..birth certificate?

      • bostonboomer says:

        He always knew he was a twin. You should read the article. It’s amazing.

  4. hyperjoy says:

    Just to get this off my chest because I see it all the time and it sticks in my craw – the habit of conflating the word gender with the word sex as though they mean exactly the same thing. They do not. Sex is biological and based on reproductive function, i.e. the female sex. Gender is a man made construct based on societal sex roles and notions of masculinity and femininity. It drives me crazy when gender is used as synonymous with sex, as in the “the female gender.”

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Today is Mitt Romney’s 66th birthday, and Charles Pierce writes him a speech for CPAC

    • bostonboomer says:

      Sure, I’ll talk to the monkeyhouse this weekend because, goddamn, those people are funny. They think they have some real power. You want to see power? Watch this. Where’s my phone? Got it. One second. OK, I just bought the hotel where their convention was supposed to be held and cancelled the function rooms. Let them have their CPAC at the Irish joint down the block. All right, so I didn’t do that. But I could have done it. You know it. I know it. They know it. So let’s stop pretending that any of it matters. I’m going to go and give my speech and talk about how completely screwed everything is knowing full well that the president could set fire to the U.S. Mint and adopt chickens as the country’s official currency, and my great-grandchildren would still have more chickens than your great grand-children because…

      I’m Mitt Romney, bitches, and I’m still all you got.

  6. dakinikat says:

    I can see I’ve been a bad and evil influence on you!!! ;-)

  7. prolixous says:

    Joe Scarborough writing an Op-Ed piece on economic theory is like a turtle sitting on a fence post — you know he had to have help getting there.

    There is only one thing you need to know about people like Joe — the louder he is, the righter he feels — so we should rent him a time share next to the Unibomber’s place and let him scream his vacuous head off and achieve his virtuous nirvana of righteousness.

  8. This post is awesome BB.